Five-minute forecast a win for solar energy industry

Solstice Media
4 min readApr 10, 2019

Australian researchers are developing short-term weather forecasts for solar farms to help them precisely predict output as little as five minutes in advance.

The $A1.2 million project, which officially started yesterday, will use data generated by real-time sky cameras, satellite images and statistical modelling to design a world-first, short-term forecasting model to more accurately predict weather conditions from five minutes up to two hours.

Working alongside colleagues from CSIRO, the University of New South Wales and Genex Power, the University of South Australia is focusing on the statistical modelling component.

UniSA Professor of Environmental Mathematics John Boland said inaccurate short-term forecasts relating to wind and solar generation have cost Australia’s renewable energy sector about $5 million in the past decade.

He said precise self-forecasting would also help solar farms with battery storage capabilities predict when best to sell or store their electricity.

“Accurately forecasting the output of grid-connected solar systems is critical to increasing the overall penetration of solar and renewables. This is important for the stability and management of the electrical system as a whole,” Professor Boland said.

“Clouds can move and form very quickly, creating complex atmospheric layers which often move in different directions. The existing forecasting systems for wind and solar are designed for longer-term timeframes and have led to multiple issues over the years.

“This highlights the need for reliable short-term forecasts to provide confidence to both renewable generators and the entire industry.”

The 18-month project will implement short-term solar forecasting systems at five operational solar farms in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.

The electricity spot price in Australia is calculated every five minutes with a settlement period of 30-minutes. The settlement time will be reduced from 30 minutes to five minutes from July 2021.

Professor Boland said it was hoped the five systems would be operating at the solar farms by the end of the year so that almost a full year of testing of the…